Salem Radio Network, whose parent Salem Media Group also owns Hot Air, has had perhaps the most stable national network line-up in the business — but big changes are now afoot. My friend and mentor Hugh Hewitt, who has had his national profile skyrocket during the 2016 Republican presidential primary cycle, will move from his long-ensconced position on afternoon/evening drive to mornings, giving Hugh a head start on the news cycle. Bill Bennett, who had served in two Cabinet-level positions in the Ronald Reagan administration, will move into a “host emeritus” position focusing on special interviews and in-depth analysis.

Salem’s lengthy announcement covers the details of the move:

SRN simultaneously announced that Hugh Hewitt will move from his current 6pm-9pm ET time slot to the morning slot of 6am-9am ET vacated by Bennett. A replacement for Mr. Hewitt will be announced soon by SRN.

“Keeping Bill in the Salem family, doing what he loves to do, was very important to us and we have found the perfect opportunity,” said Salem Senior VP Phil Boyce. “Bill will be a huge contributor to the morning show going forward, and has already lined up some amazing interviews that will continue his legacy,” said Phil Boyce. Dr. Bennett is the only talk show host in America to be confirmed twice by congress as a cabinet member, first as Education Secretary and then as Drug Czar in the Reagan administration.

“I have greatly enjoyed and learned much in my eleven years as host of ‘Morning in America.’ Engaging in an illuminating and entertaining conversation with the American people has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding episodes of my career,” said Dr. Bennett. “I now look forward to another phase of work with the Salem Radio Network. The seminars and in-depth discussions in our new ‘Making America Work’ series that we are planning for 2016 and beyond will write a new chapter in radio. I simply want to express my gratitude to Salem for its continued confidence in me and to my audience – the greatest radio audience in America – for its loyalty and its candor, intelligence, and goodwill,” said Dr. Bennett.

I’ve been on the air with Dr. Bennett, and on stage with him as well. I’ve always appreciated his intellectual approach to issues and his graciousness and friendly manner — and so have listeners. He’s great fun at live events, and thankfully I will have the chance to experience that in March at the 15th birthday dinner for Salem’s AM 1280 The Patriot station here in the Twin Cities, where I will serve as emcee while Hugh, Bill, Michael Medved, and Mike Gallagher discuss the upcoming election.  Even before writing at Hot Air, I was on the air at The Patriot as part of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. (We’ll be discussing Going Red and promoting the book at the event, too.)

Hugh was instrumental in getting us the NARN air time starting almost twelve years ago, of course, even though none of us had any affiliation to The Patriot except for being fans of SRN and Hugh himself. Hugh also promoted our blogs, as well as many other bloggers, being among the first national radio hosts to adopt blogging as a natural extension of conservative radio.

The move to mornings makes a lot of sense for Hugh, as does his coast-splitting time between Virginia and California. His reach has put him square into the national-media spotlight, and his sharp and incisive conservative commentary is sorely needed in the Beltway echo chamber. From his vantage point in the morning, Hugh can use that influence to drive the news cycle much more effectively. (Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson is staying put, both as producer and in Southern California.)

That  leaves the 6-9 PM slot open, and that will prove interesting. It will feature the first new person in the SRN line-up in years. Keep your eyes and ears open for more on this. In the meantime, we’ll get up early and have a first cup of coffee with our friend and mentor!

 

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